When I became a deacon in our church in Alabama, the first thing I was asked to do was put on an ice cream social. I hate to admit it, but I was paralyzed. I didn’t know what to do, who to ask, or even what I needed to ask.
Did I mention that I was an Air Force colonel at the time?
I’d been a commander three times. I’d chaired a 15-nation committee in Belgium. But planning an ice cream social had me overwhelmed.
I knew then, and I still know, exactly why. Churches are intimidating. Churches have hierarchies that are inscrutable to newcomers. In trying to organize the daunting task of scooping ice cream, I just assumed that there were people who needed to give me permission to use the kitchen, take up freezer space, or rearrange the furniture. If you don’t believe me, consider this. At another church I served, I helped set up chairs for the praise service. When we were done, someone came in with a ruler and moved every single chair a few inches. Do you think the volunteers were more or less inclined to help after that?
Last week we served two community suppers in our church. In doing this every month over the last year, many of our guests have become friends who we know on a first name basis. Our ministry partners bring the food, logistics, and volunteers. We provide a welcoming space, security, and still more volunteers. We share the cooking, serving, cleaning, and hospitality.
It’s really simple and not the least bit intimidating.
Presbyterian pastor and author of The Message, Eugene Peterson, calls these experiences “resurrection meals.” Peterson says it is in the simple things, like eating together, that Jesus Christ is formed in us. At a meal, hierarchies are erased. Peterson insists, “The men and women who are going to be most valuable to us in spiritual formation-by-resurrection are likely going to be people at the edge of respectability.”
Don’t be intimidated. Share a meal with someone. Serve with your own hands. Let Jesus form himself in you.